In a Fulton Avenue storefront packed with supporters and staffers, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries opened up his congressional campaign office Saturday.
Jeffries is running against 30-year incumbent Rep. Edolphus Towns and longtime Councilman Charles Barron in the June 26th primary for the 8th Congressional District.
During his brief remarks, Jeffries listed a wide swath of issues that he would fight for—affordable housing, public education, social security, women’s rights, immigration rights, civil rights, workers’ rights, Medicare and President Barack Obama.
Making reference to the redrawn Congressional lines for the 8th District, which now reaches to Coney Island, Jeffries praised increased ethnic diversity of the new territory.
“The great diversity of this district is a tremendous strength. It’s a strength I plan on leveraging to make sure we can improve this community for everyone involved,” he said.
Before the event started, about a half-dozen volunteers stood outside the campaign headquarters, located at 926 Fulton St. between St. James Place and Washington Avenue, handing out campaign literature.
Nelva Hatcher, a semi-retired school administrator, has been volunteering for Jeffries since 2002. Currently she spends four-to-six hours a week phone banking and giving out fliers for the campaign.
“Once you get to know him, you become loyal,” she said.
The Clinton Hill resident said she was first impressed with him during the assembly race when he left her a hand-written note addressed to her by name after he missed her while going door-to-door. She also approved of the fact that he was willing to give up a lucrative career in corporate law for a government salary.
“I just saw him as a good man,” she said.
Talking to reporters after the event, Jeffries said that with so many new immigrant communities in the redrawn lines, including Bangladeshi, Turkish and Russian, he would have to increase his campaign’s “foreign policy sophistication” on issues connected to the district’s new groups.
He acknowledged that with the combination of the earlier primary and the increased district, it would be a challenge to get his message out in time.
Asked how he felt about the fact that Towns hasn’t started actively campaigning, Jeffries said that he understood the incumbent’s need to stay in Washington and do his job. He added that running against a 30-year incumbent is a challenge even if Towns is not currently on the street shaking hands.
“He’s been successful in the last 14 elections. We have to take him seriously,” he said.
Last week Jeffries announced that he . According to Towns’ team, the 15-term incumbent by the end of this month, after ballot paperwork is filed.